Bill C-14 is called medical assistance in dying, but make no mistake, Bill C-14 is physician-assisted suicide.
The Supreme Court was very clear that physician-assisted suicide is not a charter right, but an exemption that could be provided on an exception basis provided that individuals meet certain criteria. The person must be a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life and who has a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
Bill C-14 clearly goes beyond this Supreme Court decision, with a mandate to study making physician-assisted suicide available to mature minors, advance directives, and mentally disabled individuals. This committee heard testimony from approximately 42 individuals and/or groups who have a vested interest in this issue, in addition to officials from the justice department and the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health.
Over 100 amendments were presented to committee, based on evidence from witness testimony that was provided to committee. Sadly, the government did not present, and in fact voted against, any meaningful amendments. The Conservatives presented many thoughtful amendments that would have strengthened the bill and added important safeguards. This is a missed opportunity.
Let me highlight a few of these missed opportunities. These amendments included assuring that only fully trained and qualified medical practitioners would assess the individual and administer the lethal cocktail that would procure death. We also provided an amendment that would remove psychological suffering as an eligible consideration for physician-assisted suicide. We also suggested that “reasonably foreseeable death” should be replaced with “imminent” or at least “expected death within 30 days”.
Insofar as safeguards, we presented amendments that when a person is self-administering suicide, a physician would be required to be present. We also presented an amendment where we thought judicial review... to ensure that all criteria for physician-assisted suicide eligibility had been met. We also presented an amendment where palliative care consultation, including awareness of all the options and ensuring that palliative care access was available and offered.
We also presented an amendment that would require psychiatric examination to confirm capacity to consent, when mental health was a factor. We also had an amendment that would require reasonable proof that all the criteria had been met, and not just an opinion to that extent.
Finally, we presented an amendment to Bill C-14 that would have provided meaningful conscience protection for individuals and institutions that do not want to participate in the killing of human beings for reasons of conscience and/or religious beliefs. We got a weak compromise.
Regrettably, Mr. Chairman, these opportunities based on evidence from the testimony and interventions of committee witnesses have been forfeited. Bill C-14 is a bill that could have been and should have been better and a bill that I can't support.